CSB STUDENT GUIDE
Department of Chemical and Systems Biology
Stanford University School of Medicine
CSB Student Guide
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Advisory Committee...........................................................................................................3
2. Didactic Coursework...........................................................................................................3
3. CSB Seminars........................................................................................................................6
4. Lab Rotations........................................................................................................................7
5. Choosing a Thesis Advisor.................................................................................................7
6. Annual CSB Retreat.............................................................................................................8
7. Pizza Lunches.......................................................................................................................8
8. Training in Radiation Safety, Laboratory Safety, and Scientific Ethics........................8
10. Qualifying Exam..................................................................................................................8
11. Years 3-5: The Thesis Years..............................................................................................10
12. Terminal Graduate Registration......................................................................................11
13. Thesis Defense, Ph.D. Dissertation, and the University Oral Examination..............11
14. National /International Meetings and Travel...............................................................11
15. Teaching Assistantships....................................................................................................11
Appendix 1. Dissertation Details.............................................................................................13
Appendix 2. Financial Information.........................................................................................17
Appendix 3. Registration Information....................................................................................18
Appendix 4. Guide for Written Proposals (e.g. the Qualifying Exam)..............................19
Appendix 5. Health and Safety................................................................................................20
CSB Student Guide
Welcome to the Stanford University Department of Chemical and Systems Biology!
Graduate school is, or should be anyway, exciting and challenging, and we hope you
will find your years here stimulating, enjoyable, and satisfying.
This CSB Student Guide is our attempt to spell out the requirements of the CSB Ph.D.
program and to give you some basic orientation to the Department. You will also
receive (or maybe you have already received) the Guide to University Resources for
Graduate Students, which provides more general info about life as a Stanford graduate
The aim of the Ph.D. program in Chemical and Systems Biology is to take an
outstanding group of students and provide them with the skills they need to carry out
cutting-edge, rigorous, imaginative, scholarly research in chemical biology, systems
biology, and drug discovery. The training includes a combination of formal didactic
coursework; seminars, journal clubs, and discussion groups; and independent research.
Your progress during all of this will be monitored by various mechanisms. During
your first year, the graduate program’s ADVISORY COMMITTEE will meet with you to
help you choose classes and arrange research rotations. During your second year, the
Advisory Committee and your THESIS ADVISOR share responsibility. From the third
year on, your thesis advisor and THESIS COMMITTEE are primarily responsible for
overseeing your progress. At any point, though, you are encouraged to discuss
questions, problems, and anything else with any of us in the program. I (Jim Ferrell)
particularly want to encourage you to stop by and chat. We’re here to help.
1. ADVISORY COMMITTEE
During the first two years, all students meet once per quarter with the ADVISORY
COMMITTEE to discuss the students’ progress and problems, to consider course
offerings and plan the students’ schedules, and to arrange laboratory rotations.
Currently the Advisory Committee consists of Karlene Cimprich, Jim Ferrell, and Brian
2. DIDACTIC COURSEWORK
Students in the Chemical and Systems Biology Ph.D. program are required to take six
substantial didactic courses during their first two years. The courses can emphasize
either chemical/systems biology or medical pharmacology.
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Chemical/Systems Biology Track. Students in this track are required to take four CSB
courses, including either CSB 220 (Chemistry of Biological Processes) or CSB 278
(Introduction to Systems Biology), or both:
CSB 210. Signal Transduction Pathways and Networks. The molecular
mechanisms through which cells receive and respond to external signals. Emphasis
is on principles of cell signaling, the systems-level properties of signal transduction
modules, and experimental strategies through which cell signaling pathways are
being studied. Prerequisite: working knowledge of biochemistry and genetics. 4
units, Winter (Ferrell, J, Meyer, T). Offered every year.
CSB 220. Chemistry of Biological Processes (same as BIOC 220). The principles of
organic and physical chemistry as applied to biomolecules. Goal is a working
knowledge of chemical principles that underlie biological processes, and chemical
tools used to study and manipulate biological systems. Prerequisites: organic
chemistry and biochemistry, or consent of instructor. 4 units, Autumn (Wandless, T;
Herschlag, D; Chen, J; Bogyo, M). Offered every other year.
CSB 240A, B. A Practical Approach to Drug Discovery and Development. The
scientific principles and technologies involved in making the transition from a basic
biological observation to the creation of a new drug emphasizing molecular and
genetic issues. Prerequisite: biochemistry, chemistry, or bioengineering. 3 units,
Winter, Spring (Mochly-Rosen, D). Offered every other year.
CSB 250. The Biology of Chromatin Templated Processes. Topics include
eukaryotic gene activation and silencing; DNA replication, recombination, and
repair; mechanisms of checkpoint activation; chromatin structure and modification;
epigenetic phenomena in biology; RNA-mediated gene regulatory mechanisms; and
nuclear reprogramming. 4 units, Fall (Cimripch, K; Wysocka, J). Offered every
other year. Not offered 2009-2010.
CSB 260. Quantitative Chemical Biology. Current topics including protein and
small molecule engineering, cell signaling sensors and modulators, molecular
imaging, chemical genetics, combinatorial chemistry, in vitro evolution, and
signaling network modeling. Prerequisites: undergraduate organic chemistry, and
biochemistry or cell biology. 4 units, Spring (Chen, J and staff). Offered every other
CSB 278. Introduction to Systems Biology (same as CS 278, BioE 310). Focuses on
experimental and computational approaches to modeling and analysis of complex
biological systems. Topics include biological noise; simple signaling circuits
(cascades, feedback and feed-forward circuits); bistability and oscillations; large
scale models; synthetic biology; and analysis of ‘omics’-scale data sets.
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Computational approaches include ODE modeling, stochastic simulation, boolean
networks, Bayesian approaches, and hybrid modeling. This course is intended for
biologists, engineers, computer scientists, and others with a strong interdisciplinary
interest in quantitative biology. 4 units, Fall (Covert, M; Ferrell, J). Not offered
Students also take at least one of the following “core” bioscience courses:
SBIO 241. Biological Macromolecules (same as BIOC 241, BIOPHYS 241). The
physical and chemical basis of macromolecular function. The forces that stabilize
biopolymers with three-dimensional structures and their functional implications.
Thermodynamics, molecular forces, and kinetics of enzymatic and diffusional
processes, and relationship to their practical application in experimental design and
interpretation. Biological function and the level of individual molecular interactions
and at the level of complex processes. Case studies. Prerequisites: introductory
biochemistry and physical chemistry or consent of instructor. 3-5 units, Autumn
(Herschlag, D; Puglisi, J; McKay, D; Garcia, KC; Ferrell, J; Block, S; Pande, V; Weis,
GENE 203. Advanced Genetics. For graduate students in Bioscience programs;
may be appropriate for graduate students in other programs. The genetic toolbox.
Examples of analytic methods, genetic manipulation, genome analysis, and human
genetics. Emphasis is on use of genetic tools in dissecting complex biological
pathways, developmental processes, and regulatory systems. Faculty-led discussion
sections with evaluation of papers. Students with minimal experience in genetics
should prepare by working out problems in college level textbooks. 4 units,
Autumn (Stearns, T; Barsh, G; Sidow, A; Kim, S)
BIOSCI 214. Cell Biology of Physiological Processes (same as BIOC 224).
Mechanisms of membrane and cellular biogenesis in relation to physiological
processes. Emphasis is on regulatory and signaling mechanisms involved in
coordinating complex cellular phenomena such as cellular organization, function,
and differentiation. Topics: cellular compartmentalization, transport and trafficking
of macromolecules, organelle biogenesis, cell division, motility and adhesion, and
multicellularity. Prerequisites: Biological Sciences core. Open to graduate and
medical students. Undergraduates may enroll with consent of instructor and
prerequisites Biological Science core and Biochemistry 205. 2-5 units, Winter
(Theriot, J; Kopito, R; Straight, A; Nelson, WJ)
DBIO 210. Developmental Biology Current areas of research in developmental
biology. How organismic complexity is generated during embryonic and post-
embryonic development. The roles of genetic networks, induction events, cell
lineage, maternal inheritance, cell-cell communication, and hormonal control in
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developmental processes in well-studied organisms such as vertebrates, insects, and
nematodes. Team-taught. Students meet with faculty to discuss current papers from
the literature. Prerequisite: graduate standing, consent of instructor.
Recommended: familiarity with basic techniques and experimental rationales of
molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics. 5 units, Spring (Staff)
Finally, students take one additional course in any subject deemed suitable by the
Advisory Committee. Current options include all of the CSB and “core” courses listed
above, as well as:
BIOC 201 Advanced Molecular Biology
BIOC 218 Computational Molecular Biology
BIOE 200A Molecular and Cellular Engineering
CBIO 241 Cancer Biology
CS 262 Computational Genomics
GENE 206 Epigenetics
GENE 211 Genomics
GENE 212 Introduction to Biomedical Informatics
GENE 233 The Biology of Small Modulatory RNAs
MI 215 Principles of Biological Technologies
MCP 222 Imaging: Biological Light Microscopy
MCP 256 How Cells Work: Energetics, Compartments, and Coupling in
Medical Pharmacology Track. The coursework for this track includes the courses in
signal transduction and drug discovery described above for the Chemical Biology track.
In addition, students take a four-quarter, integrated course in medical physiology,
histology, microbiology, pharmacology, and pathology titled Human Health and
Disease. This track is particularly appropriate for Masters of Medicine and M.D./Ph.D.
CSB 210 Signal Transduction Pathways and Networks (Cell Signaling). See
CSB 240 Drug Discovery. See above.
INDE 220 Human Health and Disease I
INDE 221 Human Health and Disease II
INDE 222 Human Health and Disease III
INDE 223 Human Health and Disease IV. Study units are organized by organ
system and integrate histology, physiology, pathology, microbiology, and
pharmacology. Organ system units cover normal structure and function, response to
disease (including infection), and treatment (therapeutics). Morning sessions are
correlated with problem-based cases and physical diagnosis skill training in the
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afternoon Practice of Medicine block. Final unit on multi-organ systems provides
pathophysiologic integration of material from prior units. Four quarter sequence
running winter, spring, fall, winter.
Students in the Medical Pharmacology track are also required to take one of the four
“core” bioscience courses described above.
3. CSB SEMINARS
Seminars provide another focal point for the CSB Ph.D. program, and first and second
year students are required to participate in the Chemical and Systems Biology Research
Seminar (CSB 270) whenever it is offered. CSB 270 is a series of weekly seminars from
distinguished visiting scientists. The purpose of this course is four-fold: (1) to enrich
the student’s understanding of the seminar material; (2) to improve the trainees’ ability
to analyze and interpret data, to formulate important experimental questions, and to
lead a scientific discussion in a logical, coherent fashion; (3) to give the students a
chance to meet and interact with seminar speakers from a range of disciplines,
institutions and companies; and (4) to give the students an additional opportunity to
interact with the faculty members who guide the post-seminar discussions.
Before each seminar, students are asked to read one or two of the speaker’s recent
papers, and then meet to discuss and critique the papers. A faculty member is present
to facilitate the student-led discussion. After the seminar, our students have the
opportunity to meet with the speaker to discuss various aspects of science in an
informal setting. In addition, students with particularly strong interests are invited to
lunch with the speaker to provide further opportunity for discussion with leaders in the
In some quarters the seminar is incorporated into a didactic course (e.g. Signal
Transduction Pathways and Networks and Drug Discovery often make use of
seminars). In this way, the seminars introduce additional variety and perspective into
the course, while the course helps to place the seminars into a broader scientific context.
4. LAB ROTATIONS
Students rotate through different laboratories during the first year, spending one
quarter in each of three laboratories. The purpose of a laboratory rotation is to broaden
the students’ research experience, to familiarize students with the ongoing research
projects, and to find a lab that matches their needs both intellectually and culturally.
The fall rotation is performed within the Department of Chemical and Systems Biology
itself. The winter and spring quarter rotations may be within the Department, or,
alternatively, students may arrange to rotate with faculty in other programs and
departments. Faculty mentors provide written assessments to the students. These
assessments are also kept in the student’s departmental files and are reviewed at the
time of the Qualifying Exam.
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How do you choose a lab to rotate in? (1) Check out the lab’s interests. Pubmed
searches, the Stanford Community Academic Profiles website, and the lab’s individual
website are good sources of information. (2) Talk with the faculty member about what
rotation projects are available and his/her ability to accommodate a grad student. (3)
Talk with some students in the lab about their experiences. The Advisory Committee
will then help match students up with labs.
5. CHOOSING A THESIS ADVISOR
Students should try to be open-minded about what lab they wish to ultimately join until
they have completed their three laboratory rotations. The earliest date when a student
may commit to a particular lab, and when a faculty member may commit to a particular
student, is April 1 of the student’s first year (which is typically around the start of the
Spring Quarter and third rotation period). Some students do a fourth rotation during
the Summer Quarter before choosing a lab. Final assignment of the student to a
laboratory is made after consultation with the Advisory Committee and the faculty
member in question.
Currently there are about 15 faculty members affiliated with the Chemical and Systems
Biology Ph.D. Program as trainers, including many faculty members outside the Dept.
of Chemical and Systems Biology. If a student wishes to join the lab of a faculty
member who is not a member of the training program, there are two options: (1) the
faculty member may petition to join the CSB Ph.D. Program; (2) the student may
petition to transfer to a different Ph.D. program. The decision of which option is most
appropriate is made on an individual basis by the student, the faculty member, the
Advisory Committee, and the relevant Department Chairs.
6. ANNUAL CSB RETREAT
Each year the Program has a two-day retreat at an off-site location. The retreat is held
at the beginning of the Fall Quarter and provides an opportunity for new trainees to
rapidly acquaint themselves with the research going on within the department. Short
oral presentations are made by a selection of pre- and postdoctoral trainees from each
group. Students not giving an oral presentation are required to present a poster on
their work. Students are required to attend the annual retreat each year and to present
talks on their research at least twice.
This retreat is an opportunity for all the members of the program to discuss their
research, interact, and have a bit of fun.
7. PIZZA LUNCHES
Every other week, the students, postdocs and faculty gather for one hour to hear two
talks on current research. A five-ten minute question and answer session follows each
talk. Members of each laboratory in the CSB Program, and occasionally people from
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outside the program, present their latest research on a rotating basis. Delicious pizza
and nutritious soft drinks are served.
8. TRAINING IN RADIATION SAFETY, LABORATORY SAFETY, AND
During the first year of the Ph.D. program, students are required to be trained in
laboratory and radiation safety as well as scientific ethical conduct. Margaret Tuggle
and Robert Pearce can provide more information about these courses.
• Radiation Safety, 8 hours, 1st quarter
• Lab Safety, 2-1/2 hours, 1st quarter
• Medicine 255: Ethics and the Responsible Conduct of Research. This course
must be successfully completed before your Qualifying Examination.
Outside fellowships are a real feather in a student’s cap, and our students have
historically been highly competitive for the most prestigious predoctoral fellowships.
Students are therefore expected to apply for outside funding (e.g. NSF predoctoral
fellowships) if eligible. This is typically done in the first quarter of the first year, and is
done in consultation with the Student Advisory Committee and the first rotation
advisor. Additional opportunities may also arise during later years to obtain outside
funding. In this case, the student will work in consultation with his/her thesis advisor
to prepare the fellowship application.
10. QUALIFYING EXAM AND ADMISSION TO CANDIDACY
During the summer of their second year, CSB students are expected to take and pass
their Qualifying Exam. Each student, in consultation with the Advisory Committee and
his or her research advisor, organizes a Qualifying Exam Committee in the spring of his
or her second year.
Who is on the Qualifying Exam Committee? The Qualifying Exam Committee should
be composed of three (or occasionally four or five) faculty members. The thesis advisor
is not a member of the Qualifying Exam Committee and does not participate in the
qualifying exam itself. However, the advisor can and should advise the student in
preparing for the exam.
If the student’s thesis advisor is not a member of the CSB faculty, he or she needs at
least two CSB faculty members on his/her Qualifying Exam Committee. If the
student’s thesis advisor is a member of the CSB faculty, then he/she needs at least one
CSB faculty member on the committee.
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The Chair of the Qualifying Exam Committee must be a member of the Dept. of
Chemical and Systems Biology. He or she is responsible for writing a report assessing
the student’s performance in the Qualifying Exam.
Reviewing the student’s file. The student and the student’s advisor should review the
student’s file prior to scheduling the exam to make sure that all requirements have been
satisfied. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the file contains a report
from the advisor documenting the student’s research progress during the second
What exactly is the Qualifying Exam? The Qualifying Exam has a written component
and an oral component. The written component consists of a research proposal
describing the student’s intended dissertation research. The written proposal should
address a well-defined hypothesis and should discuss alternative experimental
approaches, appropriate controls, anticipated results, and interpretation of the data.
The length is limited to 10 double-spaced pages (or five single-spaced pages),
including references and figures. A brief guide to writing a good research proposal is
in this Guide (Appendix 4). The written proposal should be given to the Qualifying
Exam Advisory Committee at least one week prior to the exam.
The oral component of the Qualifying Exam consists of a verbal defense of the written
proposal, during which the student will be evaluated on his/her depth of
understanding of the proposal itself, as well as his/her breath of knowledge of areas of
science that underpin the proposed research. On the basis of the written and oral
components of the Qualifying Exam, the Qualifying Exam Committee may award the
student an unconditional pass, which allows the student to proceed to candidacy; a
conditional pass, contingent upon rectifying some deficiency through additional
coursework, a revision of the written proposal, and/or further discussions with
Qualifying Exam Committee members; a fail with the option to retake the Qualifying
Exam, often after a period of 3-6 months; or a fail with no option to retake the
Qualifying Exam. A student who fails the Qualifying Exam may be asked to leave the
Program. A student who leaves the Program may be awarded an M.S. degree; this
generally requires satisfactory completion of the student’s coursework and the writing
of a master’s thesis.
Important Deadlines for Second Year Students:
• Select Qualifying Exam Committee members and submit their names to
Margaret Tuggle (Student Services Coordinator, CCSR 3155), by May 15, Spring
• Schedule Qualifying Exam (with Margaret’s help), by the end of Spring Quarter
• Complete Qualifying Exam, by August 31, Summer Quarter
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Following the Qualifying Exam, the Qualifying Exam Advisory Committee decides
whether the student is to be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. The decision is subject to
final approval by vote of the CSB faculty. If the committee determines that the student
is not suitable for candidacy, certain remedial options remain open, such as retaking the
exam after further intensive study. The Chair of the Qualifying Exam Committee
should write a report on the exam within a week for the student’s academic file, with
copies to committee members, the student, and the Department chair.
Admission to Candidacy. After the Qualifying Exam has been passed the student must
file an “Application for Candidacy” form. This indicates that the student has formally
qualified for Ph.D. candidacy and is in good academic standing. It implies that the
Department has made a careful review of the progress of the student and he/she is not
on probationary status. This form lists which courses have been completed and what
will be completed during the remainder of the program.
The candidacy is valid for five years after filing, subject to termination by the
department if progress is unsatisfactory, and may be renewed by the submission and
approval of a new application or extended upon the Department’s recommendation.
Any interruption of graduate work must be on an official leave of absence.
If the student finds a need to make changes in the program, the changes should be
made on a “Change of Academic Program” form, available in the office.
11. YEARS 3-5: THE THESIS YEARS
If the first two years of the Ph.D. program focus on both coursework and research, the
remaining years focus almost exclusively on independent research. The research
mentor is the trainee’s primary advisor. Formal requirements for the students during
these years are attendance at Departmental seminars and retreats, a yearly meeting of
the student’s Thesis Committee, and satisfactory progress in the laboratory.
Thesis Committee. After admission to candidacy, the student picks a Ph.D.
DISSERTATION READING COMMITTEE (which is more commonly referred to as his/
her THESIS COMMITTEE). The Committee is chosen after consultation with his or her
advisor, and subject to approval by the Department Chair. The Thesis Committee must
include at least four faculty members, at least two of whom are members of the Dept. of
Chemical and Systems Biology. The thesis advisor is always a member of the Thesis
Committee. Members of the Qualifying Exam Committee often serve on the Thesis
Committee, although this is not a requirement; very commonly, the Thesis Committee
will consist of the student’s advisor plus the three members of his/her Qualifying Exam
Committee. A “Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee” form can be obtained from the
Student Services Director (Margaret Tuggle, CCSR 3155), and should be filed with the
university through Margaret.
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The student has one formal meeting with his/her Thesis Committee per year, making a
formal 30 minute presentation of the previous year’s progress and the next year’s
research plan to his/her committee. The student should provide a 1-3 page summary
of his/her progress to the committee members at least one week before the meeting.
The Thesis Committee determines whether the thesis research is progressing
satisfactorily, and, if not, makes remedial suggestions. The Chair of the Thesis
Committee (usually the student’s advisor) is responsible for providing a written
progress report to the trainee after the meeting, a copy of which should be included in
the student’s file. Failure to have annual meetings will jeopardize student’s academic
standing within the program. To guarantee that assessment of progress occurs on a
regular basis, the Student Services Director schedules the Thesis Committee meeting
12. TERMINAL GRADUATE REGISTRATION
After students have passed 135 units of coursework and research, which normally
occurs at the end of the Winter Quarter of Year 4, students can and should petition for
“Terminal Graduate Registration” status to start in the Spring Quarter. This provides
the Program with a substantial financial break; it is critical that the student “go
terminal” as soon as he or she is eligible. Petitions for TGR status are available the
Student Services Director (Margaret Tuggle, CCSR 3155).
13. THESIS DEFENSE, THE PH.D. DISSERTATION, AND THE UNIVERSITY
The dissertation research culminates in a written thesis, a public thesis seminar and a
closed oral examination in accordance with guidelines established by the University.
The examining committee consists of the student’s Thesis Committee (typically the
student’s advisor plus three other committee members who have been following the
student’s work) plus a University Chair from outside of CSB (and, if the student’s
advisor’s primary departmental affiliation is not CSB, outside of that Department as
well). The University Chair’s primary rule is to ensure that the University’s rules are
followed during the thesis defense.
Since the thesis must represent a new and significant contribution to knowledge, the
department expects that its contents include the work encompassed in at least one
significant paper accepted for publication in a respected peer-reviewed scientific
journal. In many cases, a collection of reprints preceded by an introduction briefly
defining the framework of the dissertation research is acceptable as a thesis. In any
individual case the format and standards of the thesis are to be determined by the thesis
committee. The Ph.D. degree is awarded following the successful completion of all
preceding steps. Abstracts of Ph.D. theses are published in Dissertation Abstracts.
Details associated with this process are described in Appendix A.
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14. NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL MEETINGS AND TRAVEL
Students are expected to present their work at the Departmental Retreat at least twice.
Ideally one of these times would be after the second year of graduate school. Students
are also encouraged to present their work at a national/international meeting. The
Department will provide up to $1000 total to each student during their graduate career
to attend such meetings. Some students may have travel money in their own
Fellowships; in these cases, the Department will supplement the travel money up to a
total of $1000. Any additional required funding should be provided by the student or
the student’s advisor.
15. TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIPS
Chemical and Systems Biology Ph.D. students are not required to teach or serve as a
teaching assistant (TA). Nevertheless, many CSB students are considering a career in
academia that includes teaching. Obviously it might be a good idea to find out if you
like doing it, if you have any talent for it, and so on, before committing yourself to a life
of teaching. TA positions also provide some extra money to the student.
The Department of Chemical and Systems Biology typically recruits students to serve as
TAs for several courses, including Chemistry of Biological Processes, Signal
Transduction Pathways and Networks, and Drug Discovery. TA positions are coveted,
so interested students should keep an eye out for the opportunity. Interested students
should also discuss the position with both his/her thesis advisor before applying for
16. OVERVIEW OF THE VARIOUS COMMITEES MONITORING YOUR
Confused about all these various committees? Here’s a summary:
Years 1 and 2: Meet each quarter with the Advisory Committee to discuss courses and
rotations. The Advisory Committee currently consists of Karlene Cimprich, Jim
Ferrell, and Brian Kobilka.
Summer after Year 2: A three-person Qualifying Exam Committee (not including your
advisor) assesses the merit and feasibility of your proposed thesis research.
Additional committee members may be added as appropriate.
Year 3-The End: A four-person Thesis Committee, including your advisor and chaired
by him/her, meets to monitor your progress once per year. Typically the three
members of your Qualifying Exam Committee become members of your Thesis
Committee. Substitutions are possible, and additional committee members may be
added as appropriate.
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The End: A five-person committee, normally consisting of your four-person Thesis
Committee plus an outside University Chair, assesses the merits of your thesis
research and defense.
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Appendix 1. DISSERTATION DETAILS
A. Procedures. The student should obtain a copy of the general directions for
preparing a dissertation from Margaret Tuggle or the Graduate Degree Progress Office,
Room 132, Old Union. The dissertation should be a contribution to knowledge and the
result of independent work, expressed in satisfactory form. The work for the
dissertation will be in progress from the time the student chooses a lab in which to work
and an advisory Dissertation Reading Committee. The final version will incorporate
any alterations required by subsequent meetings with the Dissertation Reading
Committee. It will be typed according to a specific format which can be obtained from
the Graduate Degree Progress Office. This format includes instructions regarding form,
preparation, title and signature pages, abstract instructions, copyright instructions, etc.
The Graduate Degree Progress Office requires four copies of the dissertation (original
and three copies). It is the student’s responsibility to provide the necessary number of
copies. The Dissertation Reading Committee must sign all copies of the signature pages
(each signature must be on the original). Signatures are optional on the personal copies.
One member of the Dissertation Committee must read the dissertation in its final form.
He/she must then sign the “Certificate of Final Reading of Dissertation” form which
will be submitted with the dissertation. An abstract must be approved for publication
by the department; another signature is required here. The original and one good copy
It is the student’s responsibility to obtain all required signatures on all forms and on the
dissertation. Students are strongly advised to remain in the Stanford area until the
dissertation has been turned in to the Graduate Degree Progress Office.
The dissertation and copies, plus the required accompanying papers, must be filed at
the Graduate Degree Progress Office on or before the last day of instruction in the
degree quarter, as specified on the University calendar and no extensions are allowed.
The following must be turned in:
a. Dissertation: 4 copies (the student may wish to have extra copies made--see
b. Signed “Certificate of Final Reading of Dissertation” form
c. Publishing agreement (available at the Graduate Degree Progress Office)
d. “Survey of Earned Doctorates” (available at the Graduate Degree Progress
e. Signed abstract (original and 1 copy)
f. Binding fee and publishing fee ($90.00, subject to change)
g. Any additional copies of the dissertation the student wishes to have bound,
to be paid for by him/her ($10.00/copy, subject to change)
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After handing in these materials and having fulfilled all other degree requirements, the
student can be recommended for the Ph.D. at the end of the quarter. The dissertation
will be microfilmed and bound. Two copies will go to the University libraries, one to
the department, one to the Graduate Degree Progress Office. The student should order
copies for him/herself and the advisor if desired. The abstract and dissertation will be
published by University Microfilms, Inc. and distributed worldwide.
B. Expenses. The expenses to be anticipated in preparation of the dissertation are
typing, xeroxing, binding, publishing fees, copyright fee, graphs, charts, photographs,
etc. The Department will pay a maximum of $200 toward these expenses. Any
expenses in excess of that amount must be covered by the student. Students who
receive special allowances for dissertation preparation should use these funds to cover
C. Request for Oral Exam. At least 3 weeks before the proposed date for the oral
exam, and after first finding a time which is agreeable to the Oral Examination
Committee (see Section I, N), the student submits a “University Oral Examination
Schedule” to Margaret Tuggle in CCSR 3155, who will reserve a room (noting it on the
form), notify Public Events for publication in Campus Report, send announcements to
affiliated Departments, and complete the proper routing of the form. The Department
Chair signs the form, as does the student. The orals should not be scheduled during the
first two weeks of a quarter or after the last day of instruction.
In most cases the oral exam is a defense of the dissertation or based on dissertation
research. Therefore, an abstract or resumé should be submitted with the “University
Oral Examination Schedule”.
D. Examiners for Oral Exam. The committee of examiners for the oral exam consists
largely of the Dissertation Reading Committee. The Department appoints a Chair for
the Oral Exam Committee. The Chair must be an Academic Council member from a
department not represented by either the Ph.D. candidate or his/her principal advisor.
The Chair reads the dissertation abstract and supervises the Oral Exam. In addition to
the Chair, four examiners are required, at least three of which must be on the Academic
Council. A fourth member who is not on the Academic Council may be substituted if
he or she contributes an area of expertise not readily available from the faculty and if
approved upon petition (see Margaret Tuggle). Additional members may be appointed.
All members of the Academic Council may attend all phases of the oral examination.
Members of the Oral Examination Committee must be provided with draft copies of the
dissertation two weeks prior to the oral exam.
E. Oral Exam. The student’s department delivers to the Chair a University oral
examination schedule, University Guidelines for Oral Examination Procedures, and an
abstract for oral examinations that are a dissertation proposal or defense.
CSB Student Guide
The University requires that the oral exam be no longer than three hours, and that there
be a brief recess before the questioning period.
The oral examination in pharmacology is usually composed of a 50-minute seminar,
open to the public, after which there is a 10-minute discussion period. The candidate
and the Oral Examination Committee then hold a closed session during which the
candidate answers questions pertaining to the dissertation and the candidate’s research
area in pharmacology. The seminar and questions should assess the candidate’s work
within the broader context of the field of pharmacology.
Voting, by secret ballot, takes place after the candidate has been questioned and
dismissed. Only members of the Oral Examination Committee may vote. The
candidate will pass the orals if at least 3/4 of those voting are in favor of a pass. The
Chair of the oral examination must record the results of the vote on the University Oral
Examination Schedule form and note any changes in the examining committee
membership. Copies of the form are then distributed to the departmental graduate
studies administrator and the Graduate Degree Progress Office within five days of the
In the event that the committee votes to fail a student, the committee will review the
results. The chairman of the committee will transmit to the department chairman a
written evaluation of the student’s performance. The committee may recommend the
length of time that should intervene before the student may retake the orals and any
conditions to be met before the orals may be retaken. The committee may recommend
that the student not be permitted to repeat the orals. The Chairman of the Department
should discuss the recommendation with the student and the advisor to decide on the
action to be taken. The student should receive a written statement indicating the final
action of the department within 30 days of the orals. The statement should include a
reference to the academic grievance procedure available to all students as stated in the
F. Procedural Outline for Ph.D. Program
The student must be registered each quarter, including summer quarters.
1. All course work should be completed by the end of 9 quarters. The student should
check carefully that all requirements, including minimum grades, have been met.
2. Qualifying exam: Oral examination on general knowledge in pharmacology and
allied fields and defense of a tentative dissertation proposal should be taken by the
sixth week of the summer quarter after the second year.
3. After passing Qualifying Exam, file “Application for Candidacy” and “Ph.D.
Dissertation Reading Committee” form.
CSB Student Guide
4. If you have any changes in what was listed on “Application for Candidacy” form,
file a “Change in Academic Program” form.
5. When you actively working on dissertation, obtain copy of “Directions for Preparing
Doctoral Dissertation” from Margaret Tuggle or the Graduate Degree Progress
6. One year before the anticipated date for completing the Ph.D., begin search for
postdoctoral positions of fellowships; deadlines are normally one year before
7. File “Notice of Intention to Complete Advanced Degree Requirements” in last
quarter (preferably by the second week of the degree quarter).
8. If tables, photographs, slides, etc. for the dissertation need to be made by Visual
Arts, plan to submit them at least 3 weeks before they are needed.
9. Obtain copyright permission if needed; allow sufficient time.
10. Complete dissertation: final version of text, tables, photos, etc., assembled and
11. Update “Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee” form (if needed) and appoint Oral
Examination Committee members. This committee usually consists of the
Dissertation Committee plus additional members and each member must sign the
12. Three weeks before the expected date of orals, complete the “University Oral
Examination Schedule”. The department chairman signs this, signifying approval of
members selected. Turn in to Margaret Tuggle in CCSR 3155.
13. Take orals.
14. Incorporate any changes requested by Dissertation/Orals Committees into
15. Make sure there are enough copies of tables, photos, etc. for final copies of
16. Arrange for duplication of dissertation.
17. Take signature pages to all members of Dissertation Committee; original signatures
must be on each page.
18. Have one member of Dissertation Committee read the final version of dissertation
and have “Certificate of Final Reading of Dissertation” signed by him/her,
certifying this has been done.
19. Turn in dissertation to the Graduate Degree Progress, Old Union 132, along with the
other materials listed in Section I, L1.
20. Receive degree. Celebrate.
21. If you ordered your own bound copy of the dissertation, Graduate Degree Progress
Office will send you a postcard when it is ready for pick-up. They will distribute the
four required copies.
CSB Student Guide
APPENDIX 2. FINANCIAL INFORMATION
A. General Information. Graduate support can come from a number of different
sources. Some students enter with an NSF Fellowships, NIH-Minority Predoctoral
Fellowship, or other competitive outside fellowships. These can also be awarded
during the student’s second year. Our students have been quite successful in receiving
these prestigious fellowships and are expected to apply during their first year. Other
students are initially supported by an NIH training grant administered by the
Department of Chemical and Systems Biology, by an interdepartmental NIH training
grant, or by a Stanford Presidential Fellowship. After the first three years, students are
usually fully supported by the lab in which s(he) is doing research as a Research
Assistant. Again, the student is expected to apply for outside support with the advice
of the advisor.
B. Methods of Payment. Students supported by stipends (e.g., the CSB Training
Grant) are issued checks at at the beginning of each quarter. Checks are mailed to the
Students supported as Research Assistants (e.g., by a grant to their advisor) receive
payments on the 7th and 22nd of each month. You should arrange to have checks
deposited automatically to your bank account; see Margaret Tuggle for forms.
Income Tax . Training grant stipends are taxable, but taxes will not be withheld from
your check; training grant students pay an estimated quarterly tax. Students receiving a
salary will have taxes withheld based on the information on their W-4 form.
CSB Student Guide
APPENDIX 3: REGISTRATION INFORMATION
You will receive information about registration from the Registrar’s Offices; complete
instructions on registration procedures are detailed in the University Time Schedule.
A. Study Lists. Students should file a study list each quarter (see the current Stanford
Time Schedule) through the on-line AXESS web site. You can get to AXESS simply by
typing “AXESS” in the URL box on any Stanford computer. Fill this out all information
NOTE: If enrolling in Chemical and Systems Biology 399 (Individual Research) or TGR
one must sign up for the correct faculty member on AXESS. Please see Margaret Tuggle
in CCSR 3155 if you cannot find your faculty member’s section, or if you have any other
B. Required Registration. Please register 10 units each quarter until you are eligible
for TGR. Traditionally, TGR students register for 0 units.
NOTE: “Application for Candidacy” and “Reading Committee” forms should be filed
after passing the Qualifying Exam. Please see Margaret Tuggle in 3155. The form must
be filled out indicating all required courses have been taken or registered for; it must be
approved by the faculty advisor and signed by the department chairman. These forms
should be completed and turned in to Margaret Tuggle (3155).
C. Registration During Final Quarter. You must be registered during the quarter
you defend your thesis. If you have preregistered for a year and finish before the year
is completed, please make sure the registrar’s office “de-registers” you so that you do
not receive additional billing. Please see Margaret Tuggle if you have any questions.
CSB Student Guide
APPENDIX 4: GUIDE FOR WRITTEN PROPOSALS (QUALIFYING EXAM)
The format should be that of an NIH grant application (R01) but it will be shorter in
length (up to 10 double-spaced pages). Use type of standard size (12 pts. in a type style
such that there are no more than 15 characters per inch). The title should not exceed 56
The instructions below are similar to those for an NIH research grant.
1. Specific Aims. (What are you going to do?) List objectives and describe
concisely what the research is intended to accomplish (1 page maximum).
2. Background and Significance. (Why do you want to do it?) Briefly sketch the
background to the proposal, evaluate existing knowledge, and identify the gaps which
the project is intended to fill. Relate the specific aims to broad long-term objectives and
to health relevance (1-2 pages are recommended).
3. Preliminary Studies. (What have you already done?) It is not necessary to
present preliminary data, although you may do so.
4. Research Design and Methods. (How are you going to do it?) Describe the
research design and the procedures to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the
project. Include the means by which the data will be collected, analyzed, and
interpreted. Discuss the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed
procedures and alternative approaches to achieve the aims. Provide a tentative
sequence or time-table for the investigation. (Although no specific number of pages is
recommended for this section of the application, the total for items 1-4 may not exceed 5 single-
spaced pages, including all tables and figures.)
[It is more important to outline the logic of the proposed project than to provide extensive details
for each experimental procedure. State clearly which specific aim or hypothesis is being tested in
each experiment. Discuss the possible outcomes and interpretations. Make certain to include
and discuss all the necessary controls. It is usually more valuable to propose several alternative
approaches to unambiguously answer a key question(s) than to try to answer multiple questions
more superficially. The overall goal is to obtain new mechanistic insights into biological and
pharmacological phenomena. This section is the most important one of your proposal and
deserves the most thought.]
5. Literature Cited. Do not scatter literature citations throughout the text. List them at
the end of the Research Plan. Each literature citation must include the title, names of all
authors, book or journal, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. Be
CSB Student Guide
judicious in compiling a relevant and current list of literature citations; it need not be
CSB Student Guide
APPENDIX 5. HEALTH & SAFETY
Stanford University’s health and safety mission is to provide a safe and healthy
environment for faculty, students and staff, protect the University resources against
losses arising from various types of occurrences such as injuries, earthquakes, fires and
explosions, and to assure compliance with federal, state and local health, safety, and
environmental regulations. Safety is an integral part of your performance in the lab.
The Principal Investigator is responsible for providing information and training about
lab procedures, equipment, and any specific hazards in his/her lab. He/she may
delegate this responsibility to a Research Assistant or other lab member. You will be
asked to read and sign the Chemical and Systems Biology Department’s Health and
Safety Guidelines before beginning your work in the lab.
The Medical School Health & Safety Program offers a monthly Lab Safety Training
Seminar. Topics include safe lab practices, hazardous materials management and
disposal, and emergency preparedness. Attendance at this three-hour seminar is
required during your first quarter at Stanford.
Health Physics manages Stanford’s radiation safety program. Before working with
radioactivity, new students must complete a Statement of Training Experience and pass
a course offered by Health Physics. A test may be substituted for this course at the
discretion of Health Physics.
If your research involves potential exposure to blood, blood-borne pathogens, and/or
other potentially infectious materials, additional training is required.
Copies of the Stanford Safety Manual, the Radiation Protection Manual, and the
Biosafety Manual can be found in each lab. Material Safety Data Sheets and the
Emergency Response Plan are located in CCSR 3226. Many of the University’s health
and safety documents are available on the Department of Environmental Health and
Safety website: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/EHS/
The Department Safety Team is composed of representatives of the administrative staff,
research staff, postdoctoral fellows, and students. The role of the Safety Team is to
disseminate information (focusing mainly on compliance issues, education and training,
and disaster preparedness), to resolve problems or concerns of department members, to
establish and update department health and safety policies and procedures, and to
interpret University policies regarding health and safety.
Contact Robert Pearce (CCSR 4145C) for further information.